Earth observation of the surface provides a wealth of information. Appropriate models, training data sets and algorithmic contrast functions are necessary to unlock the potential for interpretation. This paper reviews common resolutions for remote sensing, with practical insights for modelers, interpreters, and end users.

How to measure resolution in remote sensing

One way to measure the spatial resolution of a remotely sensed image is by determining the pixel size. This can be done by measuring the width of a pixel in millimeters or centimeters. The smaller the pixel, the higher the resolution. Another way to measure resolution is by looking at the number of pixels in an image. The more pixels there are, the higher the resolution.

There are two types of resolutions that can be considered when looking at remotely sensed images: Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) and Pixels per Inch (PPI). GSD is a measure of how many square meters each pixel in an image represents. PPI is a measure of how many pixels there are per inch on an image. Higher values for both GSD and PPI represent higher resolutions.

Images with high resolutions can provide more detailed information than those with low resolutions. For example, high-resolution images can be used to identify features such as buildings, roads, and trees. Low-resolution images, on the other hand, might only be able to provide information about larger features such as mountains or bodies of water.

When choosing a remotely sensed image, it is important to consider the purpose for which it will be used.

Resolution Scale

Just like anything else, the resolution of a remote sensing image is going to be dependent on the scale at which it was taken. For example, take a look at Google Maps. The images you see there are going to have a much lower resolution than what you would see in satellite imagery because they were taken from further away. The tradeoff is that you get more area covered but with less detail.

The same goes for resolutions in general – the closer you are to an object, the higher the resolution will be. This is why aerial imagery and satellite imagery can be so useful because they can provide very high resolutions (depending on the sensor) while still covering large areas.

There are two types of resolution that are usually talked about when discussing remote sensing images: spatial resolution and spectral resolution. Spatial resolution is essentially the level of detail that you can see in an image and is measured in pixels. The more pixels there are, the higher the spatial resolution will be. This is why digital cameras with more megapixels tend to have better image quality – they have a higher spatial resolution.

Types of spatial resolution: Radiometric

There are two main types of spatial resolution when it comes to remote sensing: radiometric and geometric. Radiometric resolution is the smallest unit of measurement that can be detected by the sensor and is typically measured in bits. Geometric resolution is the smallest unit of measurement that can be resolved by the sensor and is typically measured in pixels.

Radiometric resolution is important because it determines how much detail can be captured by the sensor. The higher the radiometric resolution, the more detail that can be captured. Geometric resolution is important because it determines how accurately objects can be located in the image. The higher the geometric resolution, the more accurate the object placement will be.

Both radiometric and geometric resolutions are important when choosing a remote sensing sensor. Higher resolutions will capture more detail, but may also cost more money. It is important to choose a sensor with resolutions that meet your needs.

Data types (radiance, reflectance)

Resolution in remote sensing refers to the size of the smallest unit that can be detected by a sensor. Radiance data, for example, have very high resolutions because they are collected at the pixel level. Reflectance data, on the other hand, have relatively low resolutions because they are often collected at the scene or object level.

Several factors affect resolution, including sensor type, aperture size, and atmospheric conditions. For example, satellite sensors have very large apertures and can therefore detect very small objects. Aerial sensors, on the other hand, have smaller apertures and are not as capable of detecting small objects. Atmospheric conditions can also affect resolution, as haze and clouds can reduce the amount of light that reaches the sensor.

There are tradeoffs between resolution and other factors such as cost and coverage area. Higher resolutions require more expensive sensors and lower coverage areas. For many applications, however, the benefits of higher resolution data outweigh the costs.

Types of Aerial Sensors

There are many different types of aerial sensors used in remote sensing, each with its unique benefits and drawbacks. Here are some of the most popular types of sensors:

1. Multi-spectral scanners measure different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, allowing for the identification of different materials based on their spectral signatures.

2. Thermal infrared sensors can measure the temperature of objects, which can be useful for identifying hot spots or areas of heat loss.

3. LIDAR sensors use laser pulses to measure elevation data with high accuracy, making them ideal for mapping terrain.

4. Hyperspectral sensors measure very specific parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, allowing for the identification of even minute differences in spectral signatures.

Beacons as emit sources: How they function?

Most readers probably don’t know that beacons are an important part of the remote sensing picture. Beacons are artificial emitters of electromagnetic radiation, placed in orbit to calibrate or validate satellite observations. They help to ensure that the measurements taken by satellites are precise and accurate.

There are two types of beacons: Sun-synchronous and geostationary. Sun-synchronous beacons orbit the Earth in such a way that they pass over a particular point on the Earth’s surface at the same time every day. This makes them ideal for calibrating satellite instruments that measure things like solar radiation or vegetation growth. 

Geostationary beacons, on the other hand, remain in a fixed position relative to the Earth’s surface. These are used to validate measurements taken by satellites in geostationary orbit, which observe phenomena such as weather patterns or communications signals.

Beacons are an essential part of the remote sensing process, providing invaluable data that helps to improve our understanding of the Earth and its many complexities.

What are some limitations to the data acquired by sensors?

1. One of the main limitations of remote sensing data is its resolution.
2. This means that certain features on the ground, such as small objects or fine details, may not be visible in the data collected by the sensor.
3. In addition, the resolution of the data can vary depending on the type of sensor used and the conditions under which it is operated.
4. Another limitation of remote sensing data is its accuracy.
5. This can be affected by factors such as the type of sensor used, the conditions under which it is operated, and how the data are processed.
6. Finally, remote sensing data can also be affected by atmospheric conditions, such as clouds or smoke, which can block or distort the view of the ground.

When is spectral resolution better than spatial resolution?

Do you want to know the answer to the question “When is spectral resolution better than spatial resolution?” If so, then read on to find out the top ten things you should know about remote sensing resolutions.

1. What is spectral resolution?
2. What is spatial resolution?
3. How do they compare?
4. When is spectral resolution more important?
5. What factors influence the decision?
6. Is there a trade-off between the two types of resolutions?
7. How can you improve your remote sensing images?
8. What are some common problems with poor resolutions?
9. How can you prevent these problems?
10. What are the benefits of good remote sensing resolutions?


Whether you’re looking to invest in a new remote sensing camera or simply want to understand the different types of resolution available, this article has hopefully provided some helpful information. It’s important to know the different types of resolution available and what each type is best suited for. With that knowledge in hand, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about which remote sensing camera is right for your needs.


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